Fight the reader!

I read something today. I read the words "a story is an argument." And that really struck me as I sat in editing mode (not studying for finals mode, note. Yes, it is over.) and wondering how to attack the next round of beta edits.

I remember when I first took a college writing course, and my favorite essay was a persuasive essay. I still remember all the parts. Introduce topic and both sides of the argument. Explain why you feel as you feel about argument. Explain the opposing side. Refute opposing opinions. Conclude. A story isn't all that different. Introduce characters/plot. Allow the readers to learn more about the characters and their parts in the story. Introduce conflict (drama!). Allow the character to overcome conflict. Conclude with big wet kisses.

So going into this edit, I decided to approach the story as I would approach the essay. For one, do the readers really know my character? Get out the big red pen. Does the beginning of the story drag on with too much description and set up that it takes forever for me to introduce the actual plot? Does the conflict seem... conflicty enough? Do my characters overcome the conflict? Does my conclusion have the same feel-good satisfaction of the big wet kiss?

Ask yourself these questions, and you realize a story really is an argument. You are presenting your characters, your story, your voice to the reader, and persuading them these people are real, this story is important to them, and you are the best person to tell it. Like students preparing for exams by calming down, arranging pencils, and repeating "you can do this" in their heads, writers can prepare for editing or even first-drafting by setting up shop at the computer and asking before every scene "What do I want to bring across in this? What is the best way to do it? Is my chosen path going to cause some hiccup later or a plot puzzle no editor can figure out? How do I avoid that if it exists?"

I tend to be amazing at essays, and less so at making sure all the right information is in included in my fiction. It is something I have to work on, but now I feel I've made a connection with another strength that will help me do just that.